“Blade” begins with a bloodbath, ends with a bloodbath, and has enough blood in between to give a hematologist wet dreams. God how I love this movie. You can’t make a good vampire film without spilling a little of the red stuff. That is what it is all about.

So it comes as somewhat of a surprise that the movie “Blade,” based on the Marvel comic books super hero, is as splashy as it is. Like “Mortal Kombat” and “Spawn,” “Blade” (which resembles both in look and feel) has all of the potential to be a franchise. That usually entails making the movie as accessible as possible, meaning shoot for a PG-13 rating.

I couldn’t imagine “Blade” as a PG-13 movie. It wouldn’t be the same movie. It would be anemic. I applaud the film maker’s for sticking to their guns and making a film that has guts and isn’t afraid to show them. It’s like made-for-television war movies. Broadcast standards make it impossible to do them right, so why do them at all? A soldier gets shot, and mutters something like “Darn, shucks” while a trickle of red crimson oozes between their fingers. Darn? Shucks? Get real!

As anyone who has ever ridden the elevator at the Overlook Hotel can tell you, you can’t get from here to there without getting wet.

“Blade” begins with a splash. A young man thinks he’s the luckiest guy on the face of the Earth when the gorgeous date he is with takes him to one of those ultra-exclusive rave parties. Hot date. Hot time. Hot damn. His elation soon turns to alarm when the ceiling sprinklers come out and geysers of blood rain down on the party guests.

Kinky, but can this be healthy? Who cares, as the stud learns that he’s in a vampire den, and he’s virgin meat. Ironic, considering that the party takes place in the back room of a meat packing plant. I think that should have been a warning.

Just before the crowd can sink their teeth into the new kid on the block, he’s rescued by Blade (Wesley Snipes), the vampire’s worst nightmare. Half-human, half-vampire (the result of him being born moments after his mother was bitten), Blade has all of the strength of the blood suckers (and one nasty little habit that he keeps repressed thanks to a special serum) but is able to walk among the humans in the daylight. Sounds great, sign me up.

Blade has made it his life’s mission to hunt down and kill the vampire population, which as the film tells it, is much larger than just Congress. They’re everywhere, and thanks to an unholy pact they’ve made with the police, are able to go about their business with little interference.

Except for Blade, who with his trusty sidekick Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), make it their business to bleed them dry. Kristofferson makes a great sidekick, hidden under a head of hair that would make Willie Nelson envious. Blade and Whistler are joined by hospital hematologist named Karen (the lovely N’bushe Wright, who has a pleasant Pamela Grier-Vivica A. Fox sort of thing going on), whom Blade rescues from one of vampires.

The bad news is that Karen was bitten. The good news is that an injection of garlic juice may cure her, emphasis on may. If she does turn, Whistler demands that Blade kill her. Blade has more important things to worry about.

His name is Deacon Frost (a devilishly handsome Stephen Dorff), and he’s one of the new breed of vampires. While his elders demand that they keep a low profile, Frost suggests they just enslave the human race as their own personal blood bank. I wonder what the ATM’s would look like. Frost has plans to resurrect an ancient Blood God that will empower him over the rest, and makes his move to secure the position.

That includes giving his superior a nasty suntan, and baiting Blade to his lair because his rare blood is necessary for the sacrifice. Screenwriter David S. Goyer (“Dark City”) understands the benefits of less-is-more with “Blade.” Let the characters and their actions tell the story and avoid those embarrassing expository passages that in this case might sound really silly.

It helps that everyone in the cast approaches their role with conviction. Snipes stands tall as the ultra-cool warrior decked out in black leather and buckles. He has niftier toys than “Batman,” including a sword with a mind of it’s own, and some heavy-duty bullets that disintegrate vampires. Remember kids, guns don’t kill vampires, people do.

Kristofferson is a hoot and a half as Whistler, a hard drinker, heavy smoker with one of those great hard-luck stories. It seems the vampires killed his wife and daughters, so he has vowed to assist Blade by making his personal arsenal and keeping him pumped full of serum.

I like charismatic bad guys, and Stephen Dorff just pours on the charm when he’s not pouring himself a neck cocktail. He’s a naughty boy who looks like trouble. The supporting cast gets their bites in as well, including a marvelous N’bushe Wright, who can fend for herself, and Donal Logue as Frost’s right-hand man, even though he can’t seem to keep his own.

Production designer Kirk M. Petruccelli has done an excellent job of creating a dark comic book world for the characters to inhabit. The sets feel fresh and alive. Director of photography Theo Van De Sande creates a film noir look that frames the action perfectly. The moody soundtrack is by Mark Isham, who imbues the film with an eerie undercurrent.

Director Stephen Norrington does a splendid job on “Blade.” He strikes just the right balance between horror and action, all wrapped up in a stylish package that’s impressive to look at. The special and visual effects are exciting and splashy, creating characters and situations that are truly amazing. Bring an umbrella. “Blade” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as a horror, action and vampire fan, I definitely got my money’s worth.



Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N’bushe Wright, Donal Logue, Udo Kier, Arly Jover in a film directed by Stephen Norrington. Rated R. 100 Min.


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